Monday, February 21, 2011

I Am Just a Reader: My LTUE Experience

I am just a reader, not a writer.

This is what I feel like saying to everyone when I go to conferences geared toward writers, like LTUE (Life the Universe and Everything) was this past weekend. I feel the need to explain that though I am not an aspiring writer (don't you love that word.. aspiring....)  I do feel like being "just a reader" is okay when it comes to soaking up the excitement and enthusiasm felt at these conferences for the written word. I love hearing the authors talk about their processes, and their genre definitions, and their take on the whole bookish community.

I love it.

Yet, I still feel this strange feeling like I'm crashing a party. But then I think, you know, I can meet and mingle with all these aspiring authors and then I can blog about them and promote them and so I do fit into the picture somehow. After all, where would writers be without readers, right?

If only I had the meet and mingle talent. Yeah, I'm not good at this, especially if I'm at an event all alone. I tend to hide in the corner and just soak up everything and observe. I don't get in the middle of it all. So, that idea doesn't really work for me either! Such is my confusion about being a reader at a writers conference!

But all that aside, here's some highlights and things I learned at the panels and discussions during the day and a half that I was able to participate:
  • The authors morals and values will show in their work naturally, but if it's your INTENT to show them, then it's not going to work for your readers and will come across as preachy.
  • We need more "gentle" books in the market, but they aren't commercial enough, so authors aren't writing them.
  • Sometimes writing is uncomfortable because you are forced to look at and understand some things that you normally wouldn't participate in.
  • Heroes need well written villains in order to make their hero victory true and worthwhile.
  • J. Scott Savage did an awesome presentation on protagonists.  He says they must have history, goals, motives and prejudices to make them believable. They must NOT be reactive, make random decisions, have no growth and unexpected changes of heart. A character must not be static, but must be growing OR regressing at all times.
  • YA books tend to be more hopeful than adult books.
  • YA books don't work if the characters are in college. Teen readers need to relate to the characters.
  • Take care of yourself so you can write! If your hands hurt, stop and take a break!
  • Fairy tales are awesome for a jumping off point. You take it and tell it from a different POV, or setting or with a completely new twist.
  • The ability to make people feel different emotions at the same time is brilliant writing!
  • Villains need to be ones you can root for. They need to have their own code of behavior. It's creepier if they are "normal" most of the time... and if you are sympathetic to them... that's even better!
James Dashner did an awesome keynote address. He called it "Lesson's I've Learned." Some were funny, like... be born, sitting in poop is bad, and don't show your high school pictures! But then he got serious (a little bit anyway) and said to all the aspiring writers: love books, pound the pavement, go to conferences, network, get an agent, learn to do good characterization, have depth and never never never never never never give up! It was very inspiring to everyone, with real simple basic advice. I loved it. Awesome job Dashner Dude!

And now for another book list. Here are the books that were mentioned over the course of the event, that I paid attention to anyway:

  • Eventide by Tracy Hickman (an example of a gentle read)
  • The Immortals by Tracy Hickman (a book that got him in trouble with his family a bit)
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (used as an example of protagonist development)
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (yes more bashing, sheesh)
  • Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (an adult book that looks like YA)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (an adult book that looks like YA)
  • Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (YA books that could be adult)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (a YA book that could be adult)
  • Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (religion in SF)
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (religion in SF)
  • Matched by Ally Condie (an example of a YA book who's character has a family)
  • The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (where the character's sense of belonging is tested)
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (another where the character doesn't fit in their family)
  • Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
  • Terribly Twisted Tales (fractured fairy tales)
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman (based on mythology)
  • Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey (a new take on vampires)
  • The Survivors by Dan Willis (cool villains)
  • I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (funny? horror)
  • Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George (her latest... a retelling of Cinderella, but a sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball)
So, in the end, even though I am "just a reader" going to a writing conference is a blast and I'm sure I'll be back next year! Maybe I can learn how to mingle just a teeny tiny bit more by then....and it will only be my fifth try at it!


  1. I umderstand why you felt a bit like you were crashing a party, but I am very glad that you realized that you *do* indeed fit for all the reasons you stated.

    You know I am not good at the meet and mingle talent. Maybe you needed my Mom to hang with??? :)
    She definitly would not allow you to hang in the corner. LOL

    Did you go with someone else, or by yourself? I always need someone with me at things similar to this just to help break the ice for me.

    What is meant by "gentle" books?
    I cannot remember, have you read Ender's Game? I have not but it is sitting on my dresser patiently waiting its turn.

    It is very cool that you have opportunites such as this.

  2. Well thank heavens!! I thought I was alone in that I am NOT a writer. I do NOT have a book just waiting inside of me. I do not 'aspire' (yes, it is a great word!) to be anything other than a voracious (another good&sparkly word) reader. When I managed a bookstore customers would always ask me if I was a writer just waiting to get my big break. No. I had one woman become very argumentative with me - she insistant that I had to write a book.

    Being a reader at a writing conference should be a distinct reminder to those authors that they are indeed writing to be read by us! The readers. What a great opportunity you had. I am so glad that you took advantage of it. How interesting to hear their comments to each other and know how they orient themselves ad how they craft their writing.

    I would like to think I would be brave and confident, but I do believe that hanging back and being the 'fly on the wall' has its advantages. Maybe if we went together it might engender some confidence. Hmmmm :)

    Thanks for the list of books you heard being talked about. I have read most, but I got a few added to my TBR list!

    I can't wait for the Tucson Book Festival in 3 weeks. There I will get to rub shoulders with authors and readers alike - just me and a few thousand of my closest friends. But I'll take it because I am a reader!

  3. I'd be like you. I am terrible at mingling! Seems like you picked up a lot from the experience, though, and had fun, so really that is all that matters. :)

  4. It sounds like you were at some of the panels that I started off (I was the one wearing black with the green boots and green choker, hair up).
    Did you happen to go to the killer Breakfast Saturday morning? It was not about writing, but it was hilarious. I think out of all the panels that I went to, the one that I enjoyed the most, that I didn't think I would, was the Villains one. It was cool to get that perspective on how villains can and should be portrayed. I was also at the Fractured Fairy Tales and the Health and Writing panels.
    I too have a hard time going up and talking to random strangers (especially when there's only about 5 minutes between panels), but I made myself talk to an author and give them my card. Yay me! We'll see if I can do 2 next time. =J

    Laura J.

  5. I hate to mingle too but that event sounds like a good one.

  6. I felt the same way! I had a bunch of really well-meaning authors ask me "what I was working on now." And I'll admit that I felt really awkward going "Uh... um... I'm not actually a writer. At least... not right now." But I had a blast at the conference, too (at least, the little bit I went to).

    You are not alone! And had I known what you looked like, I would have found you and mingled with you. :D

  7. Hi. I don't remember meeting you but it sounds like we were at several of the same panels.

    LTUE is great because it is not just a writer's conference. Most of the authors are also voracious readers. And most of them are very approachable and friendly.

    I hope you come back next year. It's a great place to learn about all sorts of new books coming out.

  8. On behalf of all the writers at the LTUE this year, THANK YOU FOR COMING! Next year, wear a sign and see just how happy we are to see you!

    You are who we write for--the mysterious entity out there to whom we all want to connect. It's all about YOU.

    Next year, I'm going to suggest we have a READERS PANEL and just see how huge the crowd will be!

    Lesli Muir Lytle

  9. Now I feel even more specialer that you mingled with me. I loved seeing you there, your enthusiasm for the writers and excitement at the opportunity to be where they were was beautiful and contagious.

    Love the suggestion for a READERS PANEL.

  10. Ibeeeg: You seem like you would SO be good at mingling! I don't believe it! :) Yes, I was by myself and this does make me much much shyer. About "gentle" books... I think I'll do a post, so stay tuned. Yes, I've read Ender's Game, a couple of times, one of my favorites. You need to bump it up on the list!

    Inside: Loved your comments! Going together would be so fun, huh. Your book festival sounds fun, be sure to tell us all about it.

    Kailana: Yes, it was very fun as always.

    Laura: I don't remember if I saw you! :( I didn't do the breakfast thing, I had no idea what it was, but I heard all about it. Here's to next time!

    Chris: It's awesome!

    Enna: Oh man you should have twittered for me to find you! :)

    Jaleta: I enjoyed several panels you were on. Yes, I'm sure I'll come back...this was my fourth year at it.

    Lesli: Ha! Wear a sign! That cracks me up! :) I LOVE the idea of a Readers panel... or two. Make it happen!

    Susan: You are very easy to mingle with! I'm glad you were there.

  11. There are indeed benefits to the fly-on-the-wall mentality. For instance, you don't have to worry (before, during, and after) that everyone would be/is/was wondering about the weird chick who keeps talking all the time.

    It's easier to be accepted as part of a crowd when you don't stand out. I'm not shy--but with confidence comes more risk that you'll crash and burn in a very public manner....

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I've emailed the Reader's Panel idea to Charlie Harmon, who is one of the organizers. :) I think that's an excellent idea. You should be on it. :D

  12. That sounded like a great event, and James Dashner sounds like a great speaker. I wish I could've been there. :)

  13. Charlie likes the reader panel idea, too. FYI. :)



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